by David Pogue
Author, O’Reilly & Associates’ PalmPilot: The Ultimate Guide
What accounts for the PalmPilot’s astonishing success? After all, there are more fully featured handhelds (the dead Apple Newton), smaller ones (Rex), less expensive ones (Avigo), ones with keyboards (Psion), and ones backed by Microsoft (Windows CE devices). Yet all of those palmtops (and many more) put together constitute only 35% of the palmtop market. PalmPilot sales make up the remaining 65%.
Some of the reasons for its success are evident: the PalmPilot is truly shirt-pocketable, inexpensive, fast, and simple, and a pair of AAA batteries drive it for two or three months (compare with 15 to 20 hours on a Windows CE gadget). But there’s another, bigger reason that overshadows all the others: the PalmPilot is amazingly easy, pleasant, and satisfying to program.
At this writing, there are over 7,000 PalmPilot developers. My guess is that 6,950 of them are teenagers in their bedrooms. But that’s just the point—because 3Com/Palm Computing and the Palm OS are so open, so clear, so friendly, almost anyone with a little programming experience can create new software for this addictive piece of circuitry. Maybe that’s why 5,000 PalmPilot programs on 500 Web sites are kicking around at this very moment. No other handheld platform offers as many easily accessible development tools—and so much encouragement from Palm Computing, the mother ship.
As a result, it’s astonishing that this is the first and only book on PalmPilot programming—and gratifying that it’s so meaty, complete, and informative. Authors Neil Rhodes and Julie McKeehan do more than rattle off lists of calls and APIs; in a gentle, book-long arc, the authors lead you through the creation of a sample PalmPilot program. Along the way, you’ll learn to create almost every aspect of a Palm OS application, such as databases, beaming, menus, dialogs, data entry, finding, and conduits to the desktop PC.
More than that, you’ll learn the Palm OS itself. The authors firmly believe that in creating its OS, Palm Computing got it right the first time; you’re encouraged to embrace the same goals of speed, minimization of steps, and elegant design. In other words, this book won’t just teach you to become a PalmPilot programmer—it will teach you to be a good one.